A Gentle Religion

Our culture is often not very gentle.  Our sons are taught to “deliver a blow” in football.  A “hard-nosed” businessman may be admired.  We are eager to seek personal and national vengeance.  “Don’t tread on me,” and on I could go.  If you have been awake even part of your life, you know what I am talking about and you won’t embarrass yourself by disagreeing.

The gospel of Christ paints a radically different picture.  Oh that Christians would believe the gospel and use Christ as their Pattern instead of acting like the nations (people) around them.  Perhaps if their preachers led them more fully in the direction of Christ they would follow.  Recall Yahweh’s statement at the time of the Assyrian captivity:

Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments  . . . Nevertheless they would not hear, but stiffened their necks, like the necks of their fathers . . .  rejected His statutes and His covenant . . . and went after the nations who were all around them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them that they should not do like them. (2 Kings 17:13-15 NKJV)

My prayer is that we would stop imitating our neighbor, start imitating Jesus, and thus become salt and light to our neighbor.

I believe you could say that Christianity is a religion of gentleness and kindness.  Go with me on a little walk through the New Testament and let’s see if that’s so.

The Sermon on the Mount encapsulates Jesus’ teaching on the second great commandment, love your neighbor as yourself, Leviticus 19:18.  The Beatitudes are the Sermon on the Mount in condensed version.  I am sure you remember the third beatitude:

Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5 NKJV)

‘Meek’ is also translated ‘humble’ or ‘gentle.’  Do we believe we will be blessed if we are humble and gentle?  If we don’t, why do we believe anything else Jesus said?  De we believe God will take care of us if we are humble and gentile, or that we’ve got to “look out for ourselves’?  Who do we trust, God or us?

Jesus had the ultimate wrong perpetrated against Him.  He was murdered when He was not only innocent of any wrongdoing, but had spent His entire earthly life helping other people.  As He hung dying on the cross, did He lash out at His enemies?  Did He admonish His disciples to ‘get even’ with those who had done this to Him?  Did He damn His adversaries to hell?  You know, He had the power to do that.  Did He?  You know the answer.  Here’s what He did:

And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. (Luke 23:33-34 NKJV)

He asked for their forgiveness.  He loved His enemies . . .  like He told us to do . . .  He practiced what He preached.  Do we?  If Jesus could forgive those people, in that circumstance, what is my problem that I cannot forgive my neighbor, workfellow, schoolmate, or family member; whatever it is they’ve done or said?  I must forgive them and treat them kindly, if I want to be like Jesus, if I want to be His disciple.

Here is a disciple of Christ who acted like Jesus.  His name is Stephen.

And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:59-60 NKJV)

Question.  What kind of disciples are we?  Could we do this?  What behavior in our life right now would lead others to believe that we might be able to do what Stephen did?  If we listen to the ‘nations’ around us, we probably won’t be able to forgive like Jesus and disciple Stephen.  See why we need to quit listening to what others are saying and aping how they are acting and start listening to Jesus and begin to become more and more like Him.  “More and More Like Jesus.”  We should sing that right now, because I’m not sure everybody believes that.

Let’s move on to the epistles.  Here’s what Paul says:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV)
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32 NKJV)
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. (Colossians 3:12-13 NKJV)

I really don’t know how to make that any plainer.  If I can’t be humble, kind, and gentle . . . I can’t be a Christian.  I might be big and bad and command the respect and admiration of my fellow man, but Jesus remains unimpressed.  Whose approval do you  seek?  Who do you want to impress?

And then there’s John . . .

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? (1 John 4:20 NKJV)

Notice how love of your neighbor and love of God are associated.  Love of neighbor is a prerequisite for love of God.  If you don’t love (think kindness and gentleness) your neighbor, you don’t love God.  If you don’t love your neighbor, you’re not like Jesus.  I want to be like Jesus.  May God help us all to that end.

Jesus, meek and gentle,
Son of God most high,
Gracious, loving Savior,
Hear Thy children’s cry.

Pardon our offenses,
Loose our captive chains,
Break down every idol
Which our soul detains.

Give us holy freedom,
Fill our hearts with love;
Draw us, holy Jesus,
To the realms above.

Lead us on our journey,
Be Thyself the way
Through our earthly darkness
To the heavenly day.

Jesus, meek and gentle,
Son of God most high,
Gracious, loving Savior,
Through earth’s passing darkness,
To heaven’s endless day.

Jesus Meek and Gentle, by George Prynne (1856) and William Monk (1861)

 

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One Response to “A Gentle Religion”

  1. J. Randal Matheny Says:

    Stephen was gentle, but his words were direct and cutting. A wonderful example of Paul’s words about speaking truth in love.

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